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Victoria Farewells COVID Zero As New Measures In Place Until End Of September

Efforts to bring COVID-19 cases down to zero have failed, the Victorian government has conceded, with tough restrictions to remain in place until October. 

As the state recorded 120 new infections and two deaths on Wednesday, Premier Daniel Andrews said Victorians could no longer "hold out hope" case numbers were going to fall.

Authorities will shift their focus to suppressing the outbreak, to keep the health system from being overwhelmed, while racing to reach higher vaccination coverage.

"We have thrown everything at this, but it is now clear to us that we are not going to drive these numbers down, they are instead going to increase," Mr Andrews told reporters.

"Now it's up to us to make sure that they don't increase too fast, and that they don't increase too much relative to the number of people who are getting vaccinated every single day."

The state's current restrictions, which include a 9pm to 5am curfew and five-kilometre travel limit, will remain until about September 23, when 70 per cent of the eligible population is expected to have received the first vaccine dose.

Playgrounds, however, will reopen on Friday for children aged 12 and under with the supervision of just one parent or guardian, who must wear a mask at all times and check-in.

In-home carers, such as babysitters, will be expanded to include school-aged children, but only if both parents are authorised workers.

When 70 per cent of eligible Victorians have had their first vaccine dose, there will be slightly more freedom, including the travel limit expanding to 10km and the time limit on exercise increasing to three hours.

To get Year 12 students vaccinated before exams start on October 4, they will be given priority on bookings, along with teachers and examiners from next week.

Mr Andrews said regional Victoria, with the exception of Shepparton where a virus outbreak is still growing, could emerge from lockdown as early as next week.

He said when 70 to 80 per cent of Victorians were fully vaccinated, which is forecast for late October to early November, the state could have "an economy that operates for vaccinated people".

Further support for businesses and rental relief is expected to be announced.

Of Victoria's 120 new cases, 64 are linked to known outbreaks and up to 100 were infectious in the community.

It is the highest daily figure since 110 cases on September 2, 2020, while the deaths of two women are the state's first this year.

The women, both believed to have been unvaccinated, died in their homes on Tuesday.

Mr Andrews stressed there are plenty of AstraZeneca vaccines available at state-run hubs, GP clinics and pharmacies.

Shortening the 12-week gap between AstraZeneca doses is also being considered by authorities.

Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said while the "light at the end of the tunnel is too dim and the tunnel is too long", the situation in Victoria will improve.

"It is the genuine pathway out of here that means that we can take those small steps forward, bit by bit, and not have to take backward steps again," he said.

Opposition Leader Michael O'Brien, however, described the announcement as a "betrayal" and "kick in the guts".

"Daniel Andrews had two jobs today. He had to tell us his plan to get us out of lockdown, and he had to give Victorian some hope and he's failed miserably on both counts," he said.